Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tornadoes Rip Through Alabama

A horrific storm system that killed more than 300 people in six states across the South is one of the worst the country has experienced in more than four decades.

"Wind speeds of up to 200 miles an hour."

"Brown's Ferry nuclear plant on backup generators." 

Phil Campbell, Alabama--bodies in trees. "Everything is gone!" "My whole family is dead!"

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We Can't Kill the Liars, But Maybe We Can Kill the Lies

MSNBCs Ed Schultz opines on the real reasons behind the high gas prices

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Short Life Expectancy For BP Whistleblowers?

Article by: Pat Shannan
April 24, 2011

Dead, Jailed, Missing Scientists and Individuals Affiliated With the BP Oil Disaster

The investigation, if it can properly be so called, of the unsolved murder of the former high ranking Pentagon official and presidential adviser John P. Wheeler III, who was also an expert on chemical and biological weapons, may be taking a turn in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Wheeler, 67, a West Point grad, was beaten and thrown into a garbage dumpster. His body was discovered in a Wilmington, Del. landfill last New Year’s weekend. Both police detectives and news commentators described it as “an apparent hit,” but little else was ever learned, and no suspects have surfaced.

There was great speculation by many at the time that Wheeler had begun to blow the whistle on the mysterious bird and fish deaths in Arkansas and Texas, and was about to expose the facts tying this to the chemtrails seen in our skies over the past decade.
Now the speculation may be reverting to British Petroleum and the gulf spill because a number of other BP whistle blowing scientists, before and since the Wheeler murder, have also died mysteriously, been jailed on questionable charges or disappeared without a trace.

Matthew Simmons, 67, a former energy advisor to President George W. Bush and admired among survivalist groups for his dire warnings on the upcoming commodity and fuel shortages about to hit this nation, died in his hot tub in Maine last August. Simmons had been gaining popularity as a whistle blower for blaming BP for its covered-up responsibility in defacing and vandalizing the Gulf of Mexico while hiding the truth from the general public.

Only four days later, Ted Stevens, the 87-year-old defrocked senator from Alaska, said to have received communications regarding BP’s faulty blowout preventer, perished in a plane crash. British Petroleum had donated $1 million to the University of Alaska to catalog the papers from Stevens’s long political career.

Roger Grooters began a cross country bike ride in Oceanside, Calif. on Sept. 10 to draw attention to the Gulf Coast oil disaster. On Oct. 6, in front of the horrified eyes of his wife, who was trailing in a support vehicle, Grooters was struck by a truck and killed instantly in Panama City, Fla.

Only a month later, Dr. Geoffrey Gardner of Lakeland, Fla. disappeared. He was investigating the unexplained bird deaths near Sarasota that are suspected to have been caused by the BP oil disaster. No one has heard from or spoken with him since.

On Nov. 15, Chitra Chaunhan was found dead of cyanide poisoning in a Temple Terrace, Fla. hotel. It was officially ruled a suicide. She worked in the Center for Biological Defense and Global Health Infectious Disease Research and left behind a husband and five-year-old child.

The following week, James Patrick Black, director of operations for BP’s restoration organization for the oil spill, died near Destin, Fla. in a small plane crash.

Dr. Thomas B. Manton was one of the first to warn the public that far more oil than what BP had reported was gushing into the gulf every day and that the massive, toxic oil and chemical plumes would travel up the eastern seaboard, contaminating beaches and wildlife all the way.
“Once the winds change, it will come eastward and pollute the beaches of the west coast of Florida, and the ‘loop current’ could carry this oil spill right around Florida, through the Florida Keys and pollute the east coast of Florida as well,” Manton wrote on May 28, 2010.
Dr. Tom Termotto, national coordinator of the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference, says Manton was murdered in prison. Manton had been sentenced to 15 years last August on a phony child pornography charge. Termotto and others say evidence was planted on his computer.

It is not known whether or not Anthony Nicholas Tremonte, 31, posed any threat to BP, but he too was arrested in January and charged with one count of possession of child pornography. Was this charge also faked? As an officer with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources on the Gulf Coast, he may have known enough to qualify him for membership in this exclusive series of coincidences. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Pat Shannan is a contributing editor of American Free Press. He is also the author of several videos and books including One in a Million: An IRS Travesty, I Rode With Tupperand Everything They Ever Told Me Was a Lie. All of Pat’s books are available from FIRST AMENDMENT BOOKS. Call 2025475585 for availability and pricing.

*Editor's note--the allegation about Wheeler being murdered because he was about to blow the whistle about the mysterious  bird deaths was published by the EU Times, a web paper of white separatists, and should be considered with great skepticism.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Cost of Energy, The Price of Power--Part II

Investigators were just beginning to sift through the wreckage when the anonymous telephone calls rang into the air traffic control tower at Pensacola Regional Airport and the switchboard at the Escambia County Sheriff's Department about 4:10 p.m. A gravelly voiced male caller said, "Yeah, you can stop investigating Gulf Power now. We took care of that for them today." (From "Abuse of Power" by Elizabeth Wilson Jan. 1990)

The Southern Company vigorously defended itself against the investigations into the company's 'practices' and claimed that the actions of Jake Horton were primarily the only reason they were under investigation. Something had to be done, and done quickly. They were facing some very serious allegations, offices had been raided, records confiscated and the entire company was under intense scrutiny.

And now another top executive was dead under mysterious circumstances.

The media was merciless and it became a PR nightmare:
Southern has been haunted since the 1989 death of Mr. Horton, which came shortly after he learned that he would be fired by the company for his involvement in making illegal campaign contributions.
In a written statement, the president of the Southern Company, Edward L. Addison, and the president of Gulf Power, Douglas L. McCrary, said, “We acknowledge with deep regret that Federal statues were violated." In their statement, Mr. Addison and Mr. McCrary placed the root of the problems squarely on one executive, Jacob F. Horton.
Southern Company's PR man, Mr. Gale Klappa said Mr. Horton "had broken company rules and engaged in financial irregularities that could not be tolerated."
After the accident, Frances Horton filed a lawsuit against the company for negligence by the maintenance personnel and the plane's crew, in addition to filing for Horton's death benefits consisting of a life insurance policy and a company death benefit.

Adding insult to injury for Horton's widow, the company came up with a sensational claim that became the basis for an intense legal battle to deny any payment to Mrs. Horton that wound itself all the way to the the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals:
Although authorities say they are still investigating the possibility that Mr. Horton was murdered, Southern Co. officials claim that he committed suicide.
Mr. Klappa said the company executive carried an incendiary device onto the plane. A fire started in the cockpit shortly after takeoff and the plane crashed, killing Mr. Horton and two crew members.
If that were true, it would have meant that Horton did this with forethought and knew two other innocent people, the pilots, would have perished with him. The logical implication of that claim, though never spoken, was he was a murderer too.

Things got as mean as it comes during the trial and bombshell number two came out as the pressure to settle with Frances Horton intensified:
In a statement, Southern Company Services said it "did not encourage this settlement, and we remained firmly convinced that the facts in the case support our position that Jake Horton was primarily or solely responsible for the crash."
On Monday, Mr. Daniel told jurors that experts had filtered out extraneous noise on the cockpit recorder and deciphered voices saying, "You're wasting your time," and, "You're under arrest, Jake."
He said the recorder also indicated that there had been a struggle on the plane.
"However, we also recognize that the post-crash fire destroyed virtually all the evidence that could have definitely proven the cause of the crash," the company statement added. "In that light, we understand why [U.S. Aviation Insurance Group] chose to negotiate an out-of-court settlement."
There were three people on that plane, Horton and two pilots. Who was on the plane that would have said "You're wasting your time, you're under arrest Jake?" Were the pilots doing double duty as officers of the law? Or was this just the courtroom trickery of savvy lawyers trying to plant doubt in the mind of the court?

Southern was admonished by the judge for making "sensationalist claims" in an effort to have Horton's death ruled a suicide by the 11th Circuit, nonetheless they held onto it with the tenacity of a pit bull's bite--It was their version of the facts and nothing was going to move them from it no matter how incredible it appeared to many observers. Even after the trial was over, and for all intents and purposes, they had won. Big.
The trial judge-the fact-finder in this case-was not persuaded by defendants' evidence: "All of the speculation about the arson/suicide theory is just that, speculation. Much of the evidence supporting this theory is incredible. All of it, credible or not, yields no conclusive answer." Therefore, the district court's finding of ultimate fact that Mr. Horton's death was accidental must be affirmed.
But were indicators present before the feds swooped in that Horton may have been a problem?

Company officials claim there were, but no investigations were ever ordered. Others surrounding Horton also paid a price, and the firing of one of them, Kyle Croft, seemed to have set this whole crazy train in motion that ended in Horton's death. (More on Croft later.) Those post mortem revelations of 'suspicions' about Horton were arguably a bit too convenient, particularly since it was impossible for Horton refute the allegations.

Did Horton really act completely on his own, without the knowledge of three other vice presidents for Gulf Power and the CEOs of Gulf and Southern for almost a decade before the house of cards came tumbling down and the feds swooped in? Southern Co. convinced the Florida Supreme Court that indeed he did:
In The Supreme Court of Florida Case # 77,153
Answer Brief of the Florida Public Service Commission

The Grand Jury investigation had revealed that Mr. Horton and his subordinates were extensively involved in a scheme to make illegal political contributions and other improper payments through outside vendors. (TR 245-246; 2991; Ex. 413, pp. 13 & sea).  
At the hearing on Gulf's proposed rate increase, Mr. McCrary conceded that these illegal activities would likely have consumed a good deal of the Vice President's time. (TR 246)(pg -4- paragraph 3)  
The illegal activities addressed in the plea agreement occurred over the period 1981 to 1988. No specific investigation of Jake Horton was ever undertaken by Gulf. (TR 234). However, an investigation was conducted by the audit committee of Gulf's board of directors which looked into Horton's activities. (TR 234). Mr. Horton was killed on April 10, 1989, in a plane crash before any further action was taken by the company. (pg. -5- paragraph 1)
At the rate hearing, PSC witness Roberta Bass concluded that Gulf had been ineffective in dealing with its internal problems.
She stated:
Although collusion and management override can circumvent and render ineffective even the strictest internal controls, the criminal activity documented as having occurred at Gulf Power extended over a period of approximately eight years. The inability of Gulf management to discover and correct these overt illegal actions leads me to believe that the corporate culture was such that employees believed these types of illegal actions were, at least, condoned by top management.(ppgs. 5-6) 
“The Commission had before it abundant evidence of Gulf's
mismanagement, both in the conduct of the president, and in the specific unethical and illegal behavior of Vice President Horton and his associates.”
(pg. -9- paragraph 2)
The records indicate that Southern Company was very successful in their defense. It was all Horton's fault, most of it anyway. All that remained to tar the company were the findings of guilt on the illegal campaign contributions. By far, the lesser of all the possible evils.

Questions were raised in the media about the claim by those close to Horton, including Florida Senate President, W.D. Chilers-D, and Horton's neighbor, Frank Patti, who was one of the last people to see Horton alive that Monday:
"I had one friend at Gulf Power Co.," Childers says, "and that was Jake Horton." 'It doesn't seem fair to blame him after he's dead."
"Jake didn't seem upset at all," Patti said of their last meeting. "He damn sure didn't commit suicide. I think Jake's death is directly related to what's been happening at Gulf Power," Patti says. "If it wasn't suicide, who in the hell killed him?" 
There were some events that occurred in the last three days before Jake Horton's untimely death that bear mentioning.

According to interviews with Jack Graff, a former law partner of Horton's attorney, Fred Levin, Horton had asked Graff to "call Ed" meaning Edward L. Addison, Horton's old boss, over the weekend before the Monday flight to see what he knew about Gulf Power's next move on him. Graff finally reached Addison on Monday morning:
"I guess you've heard," Addison said. "No, I haven't," Graff replied. "I've just gotten a call," Addison said. "The audit committee has recommended firing Jake.... I'm sick about it. I just got off the phone, and I'm sick about it."
In addition to speaking with Addison, Graff learned that Gulf Power CEO, Douglas McCrary supported the decision but "wanted to meet with Horton that morning to discuss alternate ways to sever his relationship."

Graff decided it was time for a three-way conference call between Levin, Horton and himself to share the information he'd learned.

Levin and Graff told Horton to "stall for time" with McCrary and Bell in hopes that Horton's flight to Atlanta and meeting with Addison would get him some kind of leverage in an already bad situation that was quickly getting out of his control.

Horton had past bad blood with McCrary, neither man trusted the other and some of that was Edward Addison's doing when, in 1983, he reached up into Alabama Power's ranks and chose "Hatchett Man" Douglas McCrary as his successor at Gulf Power and passed over Jake Horton. Some speculate that forever changed Gulf Power and Jake Horton for the worst.

In Horton's mind, he wasn't going to get any satisfactory resolution with McCrary over this whole affair. He had to go see Addison.

When Horton called the company hangar to arrange for a flight that morning, he was told that Gulf Power's company jet "was not available" but there was the Southern Company jet, a Beechcraft King Air 200, that parked in Biloxi, Mississippi at another company hangar, that could be brought over to Pensacola.

The rest of that part of the story, as they say, is history. Along with Mr. Horton and what he knew.

On the same day as the crash, shortly after the anonymous calls, dead yellow-bellied parakeets with broken necks began showing up on some doorsteps:
Levin, a former attorney for Gulf Power and Horton, found a dead bird outside each of his two homes. He called the birds canaries and interpreted them as warnings "not to sing" about his last conversation with Horton. A third carcass appeared outside his law offices in downtown Pensacola. Another was dropped at the back door of Horton's next door neighbor's home. When Levin flew to Atlanta a month latter to testify before a grand jury about that last meeting with Horton, Levin received a death threat. A few days earlier, an informant had told the FBI that Levin was on a hit list.
("Abuse of Power" Elizabeth Wilson Jan 1990)
The authorities sensing there was more to this than meets the eye reopened their investigation into the untimely death of a former Gulf Power BOD member and his wife, who were murdered execution style in their Florida mansion in January of 1989. The case remains unsolved twenty-two years forward.

Another man, involved with this macabre tale, left Florida and showed up in a Missouri lawyer's office unannounced and signed away his interest to the house he shared with his wife in Pensacola.

After doing so, he left the lawyers office and was never seen again.

(to be continued....)
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Cost of Energy, The Price of Power--Part I

One hundred and five years ago, Theodore Roosevelt declared in his State of the Union speech, "All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law; directors should not be permitted to use stockholders' money for such purposes." 

That was then, this is now.

One look at a utility bill will tell you that power costs money. 

It costs the consumer who uses it, and it costs the utility company to produce it. If the utility company is the Southern Company (US utility subsidiaries: Alabama Power, Gulf Power, Georgia Power,and Mississippi Power), there’s another hidden cost of business:  the millions upon millions of dollars the company’s pay to lobbyists, influence peddlers, politicians, and others in the “power” game. 

As John Archibald pointed out in the Birmingham News last Sunday:
“Alabama Power spends almost $20 million a year to sway public or political opinion, federal documents show… $138 million in the seven-year period between 2003 and 2009 -- the most recent year available.”
A company that spends that much money to “sway public or political opinion” must have high-stake reasons. And they usually have a corporate philosophy that is ingrained and unchanging--sort of a 'business as usual' model that stands still while the rest of the world moves forward and evolves.

In a NYT article from November of 1989 by Jeffery Schmalz entitled: "Utility in Florida Pleads Guilty in Political Contributions" we read that what Mr. Archibald's article revealed is not a new concept by the Southern Company and its subsidiaries:
The Gulf Power Company, the major supplier of electricity in northwestern Florida, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to make secret illegal campaign contributions to political candidates.
The plea, in Federal District Court in Atlanta, is the latest twist in a long and complicated investigation of hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions involving not only Gulf Power but also its parent company, the Atlanta-based Southern Company.
The case has drawn nationwide attention because at least three figures in or closely associated with Gulf Power's hierarchy have suffered violent deaths since the investigations began, prompting officials to initiate inquiries into the deaths. No charges have been filed, but the cases are still open.
Gulf Power, a Pensacola-based utility that accounts for 7 percent of Southern's $7.2 billion in annual income, paid a $500,000 fine, which it agreed not to pass on to its customers, after pleading guilty to two felony counts.
In a similar case, Georgia Power pleaded "no contest" to misdemeanor charges a year before that were based on accusations of "high ranking utility officials violating state law by asking employees to contribute to the campaign of Bobby Rowan, a successful candidate for the the Public Service Commission."

U.S. Attorney Robert L. Barr was quoted in a news conference announcing Gulf Power's plea agreement saying that there were "obvious similarities" in the two cases. The investigation of Georgia Power's creative accounting was detailed in the Georgia Press:
In an affidavit unsealed today in Federal District Court here, a special agent of the Internal Revenue Service maintained that high-ranking executives of the Georgia Power Company and its parent, the Southern Company, had engaged in a complex six-year plan to evade millions of dollars in corporate taxes.
No party has been charged with wrongdoing. At a news conference, Robert L. Barr Jr., the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said the affidavit was filed to help obtain warrants to search Georgia Power headquarters and the home of Timothy L. Fallaw, Southern's director of taxes and a former IRS agent.
Mr. Barr also said the investigation was but one part of a "complex and very lengthy investigation" involving several electric utilities and Arthur Andersen & Company, the accounting firm. $61 million in spare parts.
In the 33-page affidavit, the IRS special agent, Arthur D. McGovern Jr., contends that the tax evasion occurred from 1982 through 1987. He said Georgia Power improperly accounted for $61 million in spare parts held in inventory.
According to the affidavit, executives of Arthur Andersen, Southern's auditors, participated in meetings at which the tax matters were discussed. The affidavit quotes one Arthur Andersen employee as having told Georgia Power executives: "This seems awfully sneaky at best - I mean, at worst it seems real sneaky."
Corporations pay accountants and book cookers handsome sums to make sure the company uses every available loophole to enhance their bottom lines. Sometimes it's legal and ethical, other times maybe not so much. But it's the responsibility of the company and the government (IRS) to make certain tax and acceptable accounting rules are followed, and sure they will allow for some bending here and there, but not a complete twisting beyond any semblance of what was once a fairly straight line.

All of this happened before the Citizens United ruling, before the Supreme Court undid Teddy Roosevelt's 1935 law and handed corporations the reins of unchecked power through unlimited political donations. It was a dark day in America that has led to the best power that money can buy in our political process. Southern Company now takes full advantage of that ruling--all corporations do, but what's the real price of power and who will keep it in check? The shareholders maybe?

Two northern former Southern Company shareholders tried once, but they were unsuccessful and the SEC ended their probe with no findings of wrongdoing by the company:
The suit alleges the officers, including President Edward L. Addison, acted to fraudulently account for power plant spare parts, make illegal political contributions, submit filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission that misrepresented the company's true financial condition, and conceal prior
mismanagement and illegal acts.
The lawsuit - by stockholders Barnett Stepak of New Jersey and Roger Mondschein of New York - also alleges that 13 current and former directors breached their fiduciary duties.
The existence of the lawsuit was disclosed in a footnote to the company's first-quarter earnings report, which was released Wednesday. (“Southern Co. stockholders sue officers" by Robert Luke The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 25, 1991)
An earlier IRS and a DOJ investigation of Edward Addison *ended in a similar manner:
In 1990 James Fagan, assistant U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, was preparing to indict Southern Company Services--a company run by major Bush campaign donor Edward Addison--for criminal tax evasion. Before the indictments could be handed down, the criminal investigation was halted by the head of the DOJs tax division, Shirley Peterson, who was later promoted to the Commissioner of the IRS.
*(Mother Jones Investigations Jan-Feb 1993 Column 2, paragraph 2)
November 1, 1989 Edition: The Atlanta Constitution
Barr: Gulf, Ga. Power Cases Similar
Florida Subsidiary Pleads Guilty in Illicit Funds Scheme
In a penitential statement accompanying Gulf Power's guilty pleas, Gulf's President Douglas L. McCrary and Southern Co. President Edward L. Addison announced a number of steps designed "to see - as far as humanly possible - that nothing like this will ever happen again." Welcome as it is, this declaration of reform would be more convincing had a different future been carved out for Elmer B. Harris, the senior executive vice president of Georgia Power at the time of its campaign-contribution violations.
There seems to be a familiar chord being struck repeatedly--it's always somebody else's fault, if it weren't for this person, or if it weren't for that one...

Anyone who’s done a little digging into the history of the Southern Company and its subsidiary, Gulf Power, will realize that there are skeletons in the closet, and that’s not just a figure of speech--it’s a grim fact that mysterious unsolved murders, disappearances of former employees and unusual deaths are a part of the Southern Company’s corporate history.  And so are allegations of cover-ups, mismanagement and misdirection, all explained by pious claims to the contrary. 

Or as you will soon learn the other excuse was it was all "that Horton guys fault."

Who is was Jacob "Jake" Horton?

Mr. Horton was from Pensacola, Florida and had given thirty-three years of his life to the Southern Company, through Gulf Power, ending up as a vice president, one of four that reported to Gulf Power CEO Douglas McCrary, father of present Alabama Power CEO, Charles Douglas McCrary.

Thirty three years is a long time at one company. And many people would view that as a corporate loyalist, someone who could be trusted, the quintessential company man who would always advance the agenda and philosophy of the company first and foremost.
*"For many years, Jake Horton was a trusted employee of Gulf, and as a result was given a great deal of latitude in carrying out his duties," said Mr. Klappa. "If someone who has earned trust fails that trust, then all the systems in the world won't help."*(Same AJC article as above. Gale Klappa was the Southern Company's PR man)
And by all accounts he did his job well, if you were to ask his wife, his brother John and those that knew him outside of his corporate life. Even many that knew him in his corporate world marvelled at his dedication to his work.  But if you were to ask Mr. McCrary and the upper levels of Southern Company men, the federal government, the Florida PSC Commission and some news writers, Mr. Horton was capable of unspeakable acts of disloyalty that included murder and suicide. 

Those sources claim resorted to two of the three one fateful day in April of 1989. 

That was the day Jake Horton boarded a Southern Company plane with two pilots, and four minutes into the flight, a fire broke out in the cabin and all three men fell from the sky in a fireball.

People who saw Jake that day heard him say he was on his way to Atlanta to meet with Edward L. Addison and Douglas McCrary (who knew he was coming because he asked permission to use the company jet) for one of two things in an attempt to save his job--clear his name of the serious allegations of misconduct leveled at him from the company in the wake of the investigations, or he was on his way to the FBI to tell them what he knew:
With a briefcase full of papers, Jacob F. Horton, the senior vice president of the Gulf Power Company, took off for Atlanta in a corporate jet here in April to talk with corporate officials about possible theft, payoffs and cover-ups that are under investigation by a Federal grand jury.
He never made it to either.

to be continued.....

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's My Party and I'll Lie (On Air) if I Want To

The Birmingham area talk radio market is a celebration of one-sided viewpoints by the right wingers and Tea Partiers leaving the large numbers of independent thinkers and voters without an invitation to the discussion. That is unless they want to become the public pinata du jour for not being in lock step with the host and the stations' skewed views.

We have gotten a lot of emails on this subject and decided it is time to present some commentary about it.

"The death knell of radio is predictability. If you can predict what a host is going to say, you will not tune in. It all comes down to that person’s ability to take an unpredictable path that challenges you and makes you stretch, even if you’re opposed to them. Another thing people don’t realize about great hosts is that half their audience does not necessarily subscribe to their beliefs. They’re listening because they’re entertained. They want to be challenged."

And they want to be included in the discussion. 

And they want the truth from both sides, not just the left or the right.

If you listen to talk radio in Alabama, you get more of a sermon than a free and open discussion. Listeners calls are heavily moderated, more so on some stations than others, and since the hosts knows from the screen in front of them what a caller has on their mind, frequently a dissenting voice is put on right before a break, effectively diminishing their time to speak.

Or worse--they are attacked on air and sometimes it descends into a shouting match instigated by certain hosts.

When a politician is being interviewed, few calls are taken by one well-known personality of WAPI's morning drive. It's really more of a one way interview than a discussion. To be fair, that may be the demand of the politician more so than the host, but wouldn't it make for a much more lively interview to hear callers of differing views speaking to the subject at hand, while the political head is on the line? And why wouldn't the host require the politician to listen to their constituents as a requisite for the interview?

Could it be because the host wouldn't get the ego stroke of a pipeline to to the politicians, who may not be so eager to go on the show if they knew it would be more of an public discussion? If we're talking about Alabama politicians, which we are, the answer is oh heck yes.

Public discourse and hard questions should be encouraged by our media outlets despite their political leanings.

We're upset with the Tea Party in Alabama because they seem to have been given a media platform others do not have. It's a one way conversation that seems to, based on some caller's views, bring out the fringe element, i.e. one frequent caller to Hart's show on WYDE "Michael" said this not too long ago:
"Some of these people better watch what they say or they just might go to hell for it."
"Michael" is a strange conundrum of fundamentalist thumper and intolerant right winger who's frequently inflammatory with his comments, and while he certainly has a right to his views, is it the kind of rhetoric that adds to a conversation and elevates the discussion or is it extremism that takes it down the low road and straight into a ditch?

And what does the host say to his audience when he allows this kind of rhetoric to be voiced unchallenged?

You can pick any topic, at random, that is 'ascribed to the left side of the aisle' and tune in any time of the day or night on Alabama talk radio and find that is all the discussion is about--the 'evil left.' 

All right wing all the time. 

It's tiring, predictable, monotonous and leaves out the voice of the independents, who we dare say, are not a small majority anymore.

But there is no room for them at the party on the airwaves in Alabama.

Readers of our site should know we go after everybody. Sometimes the left hates us, other times it's the right who sends us hate mail. But with independents we consistently get kudos and that's our target audience. 

We admittedly do lean more harshly on the right because they make themselves easy targets with their self-proclaimed moral high ground propaganda and 'good Christians' branding while their actions seem to be more about corporate love than brotherly love.

Last time we checked, corporations don't have souls and hearts. They're not living breathing beings, they are profit driven soulless machines whose only purpose is the bottom line, and how much damage they do to people or the environment to get there does not figure into it. As long as it turns a profit.

That's the other part of the problem with media--they are beholden to advertisers for revenue. The advertisers influence the media message today more than they ever have and it's changed media for the worse. Clear Channel Radio (WAPI) is corporate radio. Crawford Broadcasting (WYDE) is Tea Party Radio.

We'd love to see the day come when there is a populace driven forum of ideas and discussion in the talk radio market of Alabama, but we're not holding our breath anticipating it anytime in the near or distant future.

Independents deserve a voice in Alabama. All citizens deserve the truth about topics that have real consequences on their everyday lives and we think that does not happen on talk radio. What's that old adage about three sides to every story? Yours, mine and the truth?

Radio hosts are in a powerful position behind their microphones to influence large numbers of people on any given day about a plethora of topics. We'd like to see more of them step outside their comfort zones and explore and flesh out opinions on all sides rather than staying in the zone of predictability.

The Tea Party is just as predictable and they can be counted on to inflame and fan the fires of extremism, and despite their claims of "our ranks are growing" the general sentiment in America is their time to be nationally relevant has come and gone, Independents are leaving the movement in droves.

This editorial from Oregon Live sums up our thoughts exactly:
There are plenty of legitimate policy arguments one can make against President Barack Obama and his administration. But as far as the Tea Party is concerned, I don't hear any of them.

Instead, all I hear is fear mongering, misinformation, hyperbole and demagoguery. All I hear is Obama was born in Kenya, Obama is a Muslim, Obama wants to kill grandma with "death panels," Obama is a Marxist conspiring to transform America. Blah, blah, blah.

I initially thought the Tea Party was a good thing. In fact, I had high hopes that it might even birth, no pun intended, actual valuable political discourse.

But with each Looney Tune that crawled out of the woodwork -- from Sharron Angle to Joe Miller to Christine O'Donnell and more -- I began to re-evaluate, eventually concluding that I was sorely wrong, and that the self-proclaimed Tea Party, in fact, serves no real useful, tangible or abstract purpose whatsoever other than providing a nutty right-wing balance to the long-established nutty left wing.
In our view, the Tea Party is nothing more than bomb throwers and fringe dwellers that their 'Daddy' Mr. Republican Party has sent out of the room so it doesn't embarrass the 'grown up' right wing establishment.

The "very first Tea Party on air in America for the masses" courtesy of WYDE and CCC, was expected to draw "80-100" but only managed about a dozen, one-tenth of the estimated crowd predicted to "take control of our country." They'll probably blame it on the bad weather, which may have have been a factor, but we won't know until they do it again. And they will. But why should they? Why should Clear Channel Communications, who rose to media dominance during the Bush years, and Crawford Broadcasting give one fringe group frequent and unfettered access to its airwaves?

Maybe this is why:
"The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks. When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel's chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university's endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. 
In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire."
"In addition, Hicks steered a controversial scheme to use the University of Texas' $13 billion endowment for private investment. Among the beneficiaries were the Carlyle Group, the arms investment firm tied to both George Bush Sr. and the bin Laden family, and George W Bush's controversial Harken Oil drilling project in Bahrain." (Sourcewatch.org)
For a group that rails against big government and special interest groups like the Tea Party (and Mr. Hart of WYDE) frequently does, it appears if it is on their side of the agenda then it's perfectly acceptable. In fact, it's fostered to help get the message out, because after all, they know so much better than the rest of us how things should be in America and Alabama.

And they are not afraid to tell you over and over and over...

'Do as I say not as I do.'

Because it really is MY party and I will lie if I want to but I want you to consider me "Your Source for the Truth."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Roundup

Alabama is like a carnival ride that goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and sleight of hand parlor tricks galore. But after a while you begin to wonder what’s real and what’s just a ride.

Shades of "Sir William" and his band of thieves?---Bob Lowry of the Huntsville Times reports on the most expensive school learning software we have ever heard of in Alabama:
Turns out that similar to the "Sir William" looting, public money from the Education Trust Fund was funneled 'somewhere else out of view.' In this case, it went to the CLAS organization, a private entity, which served as a cloak in keeping the state school board in the dark about where the money was being spent. Joe Morton, State Superintendent, admitted he "should have consulted with the Alabama Board of Education" and "he wasn't trying to keep the funds secret" but that he was "proud that the system works."

Works for whom exactly? The highest number of schools ever using the Kids College program was 291, down to 183 as of January 2011. Less than 20% of the 1106 elementary schools in the state are 'benefiting.' Oh, he must mean 'works' for the CLAS lobbyists and the Big Joe Morton discretionary powers.

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives and Rileyite (a shared trait with Campbell and Morton, anybody seeing a pattern here?) Mike Hubbard owned one of the software programs "Learning Through Sports" and claims he's free and clear of wrongdoing in any way because he sold his interest in LTS in 2005, for $.55 cents a share, but declined to reveal how many shares he owned.

CLAS enjoys the lobbying services of Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross. Swatek is another close ally of former Governor Bob Riley.

The republicans favorite target, AEA Director Dr. Paul Hubbert said he had "never heard of a private entity receiving those kinds of state funds" and suspects there is more to this than meets the eye. So does the state school board who have never seen any accounting of the funds.

But one figurehead on the board defends the sleight of hand:
State board Vice President Randy McKinney of Gulf Shores said board members don't necessarily need to know about every dollar spent by the superintendent. But he added that he would like to see a posting on the Internet of all education grants by Morton's office.
Morton and McKinney's claims of woulda shoulda coulda resemble fun house mirror images of accountability because they could have done what they are now suggesting before a savvy news reporter caught on to what they were doing and published it for all to see.

In a later story, Morton proved that he finds it easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission and apologized for his actions. Let's see the accounting and then we'll decide how much forgiveness.

Isn't it interesting that once the audience figures out the trick the magicians have a lot more to say?

It is becoming increasingly evident that there needs to be a firewall of sorts built into the Education Trust Fund that will protect it from future misappropriations and political shell games.

The EU and Portugal have no respect for Alabama---In a CNBC Story from late March we get a glimpse behind the world curtain and see how the rest of the world feels about our little patch of dirt called Alabama:
Being in the euro zone is actually "a great opportunity" because it makes countries strive to be more productive and make structural reforms, Carlos Moedas added. "If we just keep on cutting an not doing the reform, we have no solution, we will eventually become the Alabama of the European Union and we don’t want that," he said. (note the comment by bigcjim who's upset Alabama's schools went through "forced integration.")
Now there's something to be proud of and Moedas is exactly right--the Alabama Legislature is busy again this year trying to look effective by slashing and burning budgets and refusing to enact effective reforms. Most of the take away game is directed at democratic entities, teachers, seniors, school children and one especially dirty trick by Rileyite Representative Jay Love-R and some members on the House Ways and Means Education Committee in a divided voice vote:
The House Ways and Means-Education Committee voted Thursday for a bill that would transfer $30 million from a fund that provides telephone service for the deaf to the education budget.
Love isn't feeling any love for Alabama's deaf citizens.

Senator Paul Bussman-R and the side show of the lack of common sense---He's proposing (audio link) SB196, heavily lobbied for by rabid father's rights groups, we say rabid because the wording of the bill is extreme and not in the best interest of the child, a bar that is recognized nationwide, and will result in punishing a child when parents divorce.

If Bussman gets his way with this bill, in the absence of a "parenting plan" agreement by the divorcing parents, children will be forced to be uprooted and ordered to live with the other parent for one year, and any money spent for the child will allow for a reduction off child support. Bussman does not admit this fact in the audio link above. He also withdrew from continued mediation on the bill in early April.

The bill seeks to raise the already high bar of proving a parent to be unfit. Most law enforcement and family law attorneys admit that the current burden of proving unfitness allows for a lot of bad behavior that can be physically and mentally very damaging to children before the court will step in. So let's make that even harder to rise to?

We agree with an editorial from the Huntsville Times that says "the trial court should retain jurisdiction based on written findings of fact" rather than a blanket law that seems to puts parent's interests above the child like the one Senator Bussman is proposing.
Clinical Psychologist Kenneth Sullivan explains, "If it’s going to be split half and half, you’d expect that that’s going to impose less stability for the children. The children would be paying a price for the parents’ preference."
The legislature cannot keep their own affairs in order, what gives them the right to meddle in what are already complex and sensitive family court affairs? Maybe the explanation is that some of the 27 sponsors of the bill are ex-husbands with an axe to grind for grievances against their ex-wives that are now years old? And just for the record, if the shoe were on the other foot we would be just as troubled by it. So no H8 mail please.

Alabama spending spree with BP money---
Some Gulf States have been unable to resist the thrill of BP money spending it on brand new SUVs, I-Phones, computers and scalawag state senators personal business interests i.e. Alabama Senator Trip Pittman and Baldwin County Commissioner Bob James. Little detail is available for where all the Alabama money went, but this MSNBC story reveals the big time Gulf states have been having on the BP dime.

"Alabama's Emergency Management Agency distributed $30 million without turning down a single request."

We have to wonder how many state employees, special interests, political buddies and elected officials got more than they should have in the deal. That includes the EMC and ADEM.

No detailed accounting has been offered. Big shock under the big top that one is.

Serve the Gulf or Serving Us Up?---The company that brought us the concept of "Alternative education" in the GoBuildAlabama campaign (the commercials are running again on Fox 6 after a hiatus) Big Communications, has put together a new ride and invited the whole world to step right up and delight in the Gulf seafood heartily and often and toss your concerns to the wind.

"It's safe, it's clean and it's dee-licious!"--Dr. Dr. Governor Bentley 

Even NOAA is getting in on the act:
April 12, 2011 Tweets
“Not one piece of tainted seafood has entered the market.” - #NOAA fisheries chief Eric Schwaab about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck

NOAA shows proof that Gulf seafood is safe: http://bit.ly/gwsG18  #oilspill #servethegulf about 22 hours ago via TweetDeck

"The FDA says a person could eat 63 pounds of peeled shrimp, five pounds of oyster meat or nine pounds of fish (18, eight-ounce filets) a day for five years without exceeding health risks." 

Is it really? Never mind the fact that the FDA raised the threshold of acceptable toxic chemical exposure limits after the BP Spill from 10 ppm to 100 million ppm on finned fish and from 50ppm to 500 ppm for shellfish. Many questions still linger and so does litigation about the testing procedures going on with Gulf seafood:
"It is unethical to 'experiment' with the health of the U.S. population or military members who may be admonished to consume TPH-tainted Gulf seafood."
We really do want the Gulf seafood industry to recover, especially for the fisherman who know only one way of life--to fish. But, we are highly skeptical that too many unknowns are at play and information is skewed or suppressed.  
(And please get rid of that damned "oyster czar" who is not helping the oyster fishermen one bit Governor Bentley.)

That's happening right now with tissue samples from sea turtles and dolphins and who defends the 'confidentiality' as they call it? NOAA.

When in doubt call the military out---In an effort to boost the economy in the Dauphin Island area post BP Spill, the Department of Defense has it's eye on the Isle:
“If we can do something to bring economic development to the island, bolster our local businesses and do something for our military men and women, how much better can it get?” Dauphin Island Mayor Collier said. 
Collier is considering the idea after frustration with what he calls "talk from politicians about getting BP money and using it for this and that" and "none of that has happened."

DI may have to 'give up' its golf course and some private beachfront parcels of land owned by residents for this to happen. Not everyone is on board with the proposal. If the residents don't want to sell, watch for Eminent Domain to make an unannounced appearance from behind the side door.

Welcome to Alabama Cockfighting capital of the US---Cockfighting is an old practice that dates back hundreds of years. It's cruel, crime-ridden and distasteful to a modern society. The operative word being 'modern.' Alabama has the weakest penalties in the nation.

A bill is in the legislature this year that would strengthen penalties for this barbaric practice that looks like it is going down in flames thanks to the Cockfighting lobby. Yes they really do have one. And we really are an archaic lot to encourage this lunacy.

Representative Mo Brooks-R does Alabama proud---Brooks was on the floor of the US House of Representatives this morning debating the 2012 budget and criticized "certain socialist members of the body" on their spending decisions. 'You are all socialists my democratic counterparts and yes I said it and whut are yew goin' ta do about it boys?!' 

He didn't get away with it though and was forced to withdraw the word:
After some awkward silence, Brooks was asked by the Republican in the chair if he had a request for unanimous consent, and Brooks then asked for unanimous consent that his use of the word "socialist" be stricken from the record.
Brooks was allowed to finish his remarks on the budget, and said, "For whatever reason I am permitted not to use one word."
He must have forgotten he wasn't in Alabama where such inflammatory language is encouraged. Tolerance is a virtue that gathers a lot of cobwebs when it comes to Alabama politicians. Watch for this on the national evening news.

Good job dunderhead, that will go a long way to help the state's image.

Step right on up folks and witness the greatest show that never was---sense and sensibility in Alabamy.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three More Individuals Plead Guilty In $7.3 Million Dollar Theft Indictment Case of M. William Campbell, Jr.

Governor Bob Riley presented ASBDC State Director, William
Campbell, Jr.(3rd from left next to ASBDC Public Relations Director Lauren Young) with a proclamation August 21, 2008 to commend
Mr. Campbell and the ASBDC’s committment to making the
Alabama Rural Action Commission a success.

**Updated April 13, 2011 additional indictments posted below

Employees of State Consortium and Non-Profit Institute Agree to Plead Guilty to Tax and Fraud Charges

Press Release
U.S. Attorney’s Office
April 08, 2011

Northern District of Alabama
(205) 244-2001

BIRMINGHAM—One employee of a state business development consortium and two employees of a non-profit institute associated with the consortium have entered into plea agreements with the federal government on income tax and fraud charges, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, FBI Special Agent in Charge Pat Maley and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael D. McDaniel.

LAUREN YOUNG, 33, head of marketing for the Alabama Small Business Development Consortium, has agreed to plead guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

MICKIE DAVIS, 49, bookkeeper for the Alabama Small Business Institute of Commerce, has agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

BENJAMIN JOHNSON, 35, executive director of the Small Business Institute, has agreed to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and filing false tax returns.

Federal prosecutors brought charges against Young, Davis and Johnson, all of Gadsden, by informations either filed or unsealed today, along with the plea agreements.

The Alabama Small Business Development Consortium is composed of universities in the state, each with its own small business development center, as well as a procurement technical center and an international trade center. The consortium’s purposes are to enhance economic growth, to provide management and technical assistance to small businesses, and to develop Alabama’s workforce.

A federal grand jury indictment was unsealed last week charging the state director of the Alabama Small Business Development Consortium, Maurice William Campbell Jr., with fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. The indictment charges Campbell with using his position as the consortium’s director to obtain more than $7 million from the State of Alabama.

It charges Campbell, 59, of Rainbow City, with conspiracy to defraud the state and the Alabama Small Business Institute of Commerce, a private non-profit institute he incorporated, and with making financial transactions intended to conceal the proceeds of the fraud.

The Institute of Commerce received nearly all of its funding from the state through grants, contracts and appropriations in the education budget. From 2005 through 2010, the private, non-profit institute received more than $7.3 million in public funds intended to provide services including education and training to Alabama workers.

Campbell hired Young in 2006 as marketing director for the Alabama Small Business Development Consortium. In October 2006, she received a business check card for the consortium and, over more than three years, used it to make about $195,000 in illegitimate expenditures for herself or others, according to her plea agreement. She made efforts to conceal that she was improperly spending Institute funds, according to the plea agreement.

Young also received thousands of dollars in state funds for reimbursement of travel expenses that Young had paid with Institute funds, according to her plea agreement.

Young acknowledges that she under-reported her income on tax returns for 2008 and 2009.

Davis acknowledges in her plea agreement that, as bookkeeper of the institute, she “received hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, services, clothing, lodging, meals, and other items for personal benefit, financed by the Institute and its state funding. Moreover, she knowingly and willfully assisted others in using institute funds for their personal benefit, including the incorporator” of the institute, Campbell.

In July and August 2005, Davis opened bank accounts for the institute and knew it received its funding from the state, according to plea agreement. That same year, she began writing checks, at Campbell’s request, from the institute to women he referred to as the Little Sisters, the plea agreement says. From 2006 to 2010, Davis used and witnessed others using business check cards on the institute’s accounts for personal expenses, including jewelry, clothing, event tickets and meals, according to her plea agreement. She acknowledges that in 2008, she financed a trip to the Bahamas using institute funds.

Davis under-reported her income on tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009, according to the plea agreement.

Johnson was hired as executive director of the institute in September 2006. He acknowledges in his plea agreement that he knew less than 20 percent of the state money coming to the institute was being awarded in grants to member schools. Johnson acknowledges that he used institute funds for personal expenses, including trips, clothing, and car maintenance, and that he was aware other institute officials were spending the state funds for personal expenses.

In August 2008, Johnson created Johnson Marketing Group, which he and Campbell used to obtain money from the institute, according to Johnson’s plea agreement.

Johnson acknowledges that he under-reported his income on tax returns for 2008 and 2009.

IRS-Criminal Investigation and the FBI investigated this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamarra Matthews Johnson and George Martin are prosecuting the case.

(This story follows our previous article from April 1 when the indictment was unsealed)


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Monday, April 11, 2011

SELC Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper Against Northern Beltline

Groups Sue ALDOT for Flawed Environmental Study on Northern Beltline

Press Release April 11, 2011

Gil Rogers, Senior Attorney, 404-521-9900
Cat McCue, Senior Communications Manager, 434-977-4090
Representing: Black Warrior Riverkeeper - Nelson Brooke, 205-458-0095

Montgomery, AL--In violation of federal law, the state Department of Transportation failed to fully account for the environmental impacts of the massive, high-priced Northern Beltline, conservation groups said in a lawsuit filed today in federal district court in Montgomery.

Click here to read the complaint (pdf)
Click here to read SELC's factsheet on the Northern Beltline (pdf)

The 52-mile beltline was recently pegged at $4.7 billion, a 38% increase from just a few months ago.  Much of that would come from federal coffers, but state taxpayers would be responsible for nearly $1 billion in matching funds. At about $90 million per mile, the beltline would be one of the most expensive interstate beltways in U.S. history.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper is suing the agency for violating the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires a thorough evaluation of environmental impacts and alternatives in order to identify the most cost-effective and least damaging alternatives for projects funded with federal money.

"We have been waiting for years for ALDOT to do its homework before proceeding as required by federal law.  Unfortunately, this expensive and outdated highway project continues to move forward without a study of the most cost-effective way to bring economic growth to this part of the state," said Gil Rogers, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents the river group in the lawsuit.

The state's $1 billion share of the beltline exceeds ALDOT's annual construction budget for the entire state, and would be almost five times as much as ALDOT's annual budget for road and bridge maintenance statewide.  The high price of the state's match means that many other necessary projects-such as safety improvements, bridge repair and road maintenance in Montgomery, Mobile, Huntsville, and elsewhere, including Birmingham-would go unfunded to accommodate the beltline.

ALDOT has failed to undertake any comparison of the true economic development impacts of this project with other transportation improvement alternatives, nor does the $4.7 billion price tag take into account the additional cost to local governments of providing services like secondary roads and utilities to accommodate new growth in the region.   Further, the beltline would likely trigger a shift of economic activity away from existing Birmingham neighborhoods.

"ALDOT's inadequate study of this roadway's cumulative economic and environmental impacts led to decisions being made in a vacuum without proper planning or public input," said Nelson Brooke, spokesman for Black Warrior Riverkeeper. "Sprawling development along this highway will lead to increased pollution in local streams and rivers to the detriment of all who live downstream."

The Northern Beltline was first proposed a half century ago, when engineers routinely designed bypasses around metro areas to relieve traffic. Today's transportation experts increasingly recognize the built-in liabilities of bypasses-declining downtowns, sprawl, loss of open space, impaired water quality, and increased traffic and smog.

ALDOT completed an environmental study on the project in 1997 and chose the route for the Northern Beltline that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited as the most environmentally destructive. Because no work on the project occurred over the next three years, the analysis expired. ALDOT was legally required to re-evaluate its study and factor in changed conditions and correct deficiencies.

Instead, in 2006, ALDOT released an extremely limited study covering only 3.4 miles, which according to the lawsuit amounts to an illegal segmentation of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act.  Moreover, ALDOT has continued to ignore the environmental impacts of development spurred by the 3.4-mile segment and the beltline as a whole.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional conservation organization using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper is a citizen-based nonprofit environmental advocacy organization whose mission is to protect and restore the Black Warrior River and its tributaries. A member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Black Warrior Riverkeeper was the Alabama Environmental Council's 2007 Conservation Organization of the Year and the American Canoe Association's 2008 Green Paddle Award winner. Nelson Brooke, Riverkeeper, won the Alabama Rivers Alliance's 2010 River Hero Award.
Click here for more information about the Northern Beltline.

WGBH's Rick Karr interviews Phillip Weidmeyer on the Northern Beltline
PBS article on Phillip Weidmeyer and BARD's influence on the Northern Beltline
PBS interview Nelson Brooke
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